Capitals’ Tom Wilson avoids suspension for hit on Brian Dumoulin

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Tom Wilson will not be punished for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin during the Washington Capitals’ 4-1 victory in Game 2.

The hit occurred in the second period when Dumoulin got sandwiched between Wilson and Alex Ovechkin. After being tended to on the ice, Dumoulin left the game and did not return. Wilson was not penalized.

After reviewing the hit, the NHL Department of Player Safety determined that the play did not warrant a fine or suspension.

Here is their reasoning via Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.com:

“[T]he NHL Department of Player Safety determined that Wilson’s contact with Dumoulin was not considered an illegal check to the head. It felt that contact with the head was unavoidable on the play, and Dumoulin bracing himself for the Ovechkin hit materially changed the position of his head prior to Wilson making contact with him.”

The NHL’s Rule 48 states that when determining whether a check to the head is illegal, the body position of the player being hit is taken into consideration, especially if that player moves their body or head “immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.” The DoPS also felt that Wilson’s positioning behind Dumoulin would not have allowed him to target the head.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

“I’m at no point trying to target the head at all,” Wilson said afterward via the Washington Post. “Unfortunately there’s a collision there. You know what, I’ve watched it briefly, and I don’t realize what I can really do any different. At the last second, I see [Ovechkin] coming in and you can see me bracing, as well, and I end up getting kind of taken out as well.”

As you might imagine, the Penguins, who were already playing without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin because of injury, were not happy with the play.

“Yeah I saw it, it looked like it was a high hit, but they didn’t see it that way,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told NBC’s Pierre McGuire during the game.

“We all know who he is and what he does on the ice, so I don’t really have a comment,” said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang via the Tribune-Review. “We expect that from him.”

Dumoulin, who went through concussion protocol, participated in practice on Monday and will be a game-time decision for Game 3 (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), according to Sullivan.

“I knew Wilson was coming from behind. I saw Ovi come and braced for Ovechkin,” Dumoulin said. “I wasn’t ready for Wilson at all. I got caught in that.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Pittsburgh funeral home celebrates Flyers’ playoff exit with custom prayer cards

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Any time one of the Battle of Pennsylvania participants can get one up on the other, they celebrate having bragging rights loudly and proudly.

The Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in six games in their first-round matchup and as you can imagine, the Steel City faithful have been enjoying it. On top of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, they’ve also been able to relish winning three of the last four series that these teams have played.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Adding to the chorus of chirps is the Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home and Crematory in East Pittsburgh, who said goodbye to the dearly departed Flyers in their own unique way with prayer cards.

Via Facebook:

Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home & Crematory

“Help us send our condolences to the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans, with these custom prayer cards memorializing their run in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Share for all of our friends in Philly!” read the caption of their Facebook post.

The Flyers have lost six times in the Stanley Cup Final since winning back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975. The Penguins, meanwhile, have won five championships in six Final appearances since 1991, something that’s certainly never been lost on the city in their battles with Philadelphia over the years.

Now Flyers fans can root for their second favorite hockey team: “Anyone playing the Penguins.”

Stick-tap Benstonium

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers ready for ‘next man up’ mentality with Couturier out for Game 4

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PHILADELPHIA — Before the Philadelphia Flyers fully trickled out to the Wells Fargo Center ice for their optional morning skate ahead of Game 4 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, live stream), the word from the team was that there was no update on Sean Couturier, who was injured following a collision with Radko Gudas during Tuesday’s practice.

When pressed, all head coach Dave Hakstol would say is that it’s a game-time decision. If Couturier is out, that could mean rookie Nolan Patrick centering the top line or Claude Giroux moving from the wing to back down the middle.

“We’ll be ready and prepared, regardless of what the lineup is,” Hakstol said. “You can’t center it around one or two players.”

“Anytime somebody gets injured or traded, it’s a great opportunity for guys to step up,” said Giroux. The Flyers captain would reference their run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final that saw players like Ville Leino and Giroux himself step up when Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne were forced from the lineup. It’s understood that it’s next man up in these situations.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Patrick would see his responsibilities upped should Couturier sit, as there’s the possibility of him being matched up with Sidney Crosby.

“If the lines are different I wouldn’t change how I play against [Crosby],” Patrick said.

There’s no replacing what Couturier brings to the Flyers lineup. Patrick called him “one of the best two-way players” he’s ever seen, and if the option for Hakstol to play him in all situations is taken away for Game 4, that would leave a big hole in a vital game for Philadelphia.

The penalty kill would take a hit in his absence, a unit that was overwhelmed in Game 3 and allowed three goals on seven Penguins power play opportunities. Six of those penalties were stick infractions, and while relying on special teams isn’t something that necessarily built into Mike Sullivan’s game plan, the Flyers did make sure to talk about being smarter. Going back to Pittsburgh down 3-1 is something they want to avoid.

“I think everyone knows those mistakes before our coach even tells us,” Patrick said. “Can’t happen and we’ll be better in that area.”

More: Flyers hoping new lines can get offense going vs. Penguins

UPDATE:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Malkin, Dumoulin help Penguins score twice in five seconds vs. Flyers (Video)

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PHILADELPHIA — After a first period where they were outshot 11-4 but held a 1-0 lead, the Pittsburgh Penguins used the middle period to really separate themselves in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Penguins would capitalize on two power play goals in the second period with Derick Brassard netting his first of the playoffs 2:48 in to make it 2-0. Four minutes later, with Pittsburgh on a 4-on-3 power play, Kris Letang set up Evgeni Malkin for a one-timer,  which resulted in goal number three on the afternoon.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

As Flyers fans inside Wells Fargo Center were coming to grips with the three-goal deficit, the ensuing face-off following the Malkin goal quickly led to another Penguins scoring chance, with Sidney Crosby winning the draw and then finding Brian Dumoulin to make it 4-0.

According to the NHL, Pittsburgh’s two goals in five seconds matches a playoff record for two goals by one team. The feat did make Penguins franchise history in beating the previous playoff record of seven seconds set by Ron Stackhouse and Rick Kehoe in 1980.

Two goals in five seconds and a 4-1 lead after the second period is certainly a good way to respond to their ineffectiveness offensively on Friday night. The Penguins would hang on and take Game 3, 5-1, for a 2-1 series lead.

“It was big,” said Letang afterward, “I think our [special teams] were the reason we lost in Game 2. I think tonight they answered really well and those two goals were big for us.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Capitals best Penguins, clinch third straight Metro Division title

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The Washington Capitals clinched their third straight Metropolitan Division title with a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday night.

Philipp Grubauer, who’s been tremendous while giving head coach Barry Trotz something to think about as the playoffs approach, made 36 saves, including a couple of beauties in the third period to keep the Penguins at bay.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

T.J. Oshie opened the scoring 6:25 into the game and extended his point streak to five games. Pittsburgh tested Grubauer, firing 26 shot his way in the opening 40 minutes, but he denied them all. Dmitry Orlov would double the Capitals’ lead late in the second period with his 10th of the season.

The Penguins have five wins this season when trailing entering the third period, and coupled with their personnel, they had to be feeling confident that they could find a way to solve Grubauer over the final 20 minutes. That confidence was short-lived as Tom Wilson, via a great deflection, needed just 23 seconds to extend their lead to 3-0.

Playing on Washington’s top line with Alex Ovechkin, Wilson is experiencing a career season with 14 goals and 34 points, 32 of them coming at even strength.

Patric Hornqvist would ruin Grubauer’s shutout attempt with a goal four minutes from time. Then, since these two are hated rivals, things began to boil over. Evgeni Malkin was ready to fight the entire Capitals team.

Penguins assistant coach Mark Recchi was also given the heave-ho after chirping the officials.

This is the last meeting between these two teams in the regular season, but the bad blood will not be forgotten should they see one another yet again sometime in the next month.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.